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2014 in Review, Niches Become Mainstream

By Chris Ward

2014 was quite a year, especially for technology and how it affects everyone. Here are some of my highlights, lowlights and observations on the year and how it maybe affected developers.

Paradigm Shifts

The two main mobile operating systems both released major new versions with accompanying API and design language changes. Google gave us Material design with Android Lollipop and Apple released iOS 8, introducing many new ideas and set Apples path for unifying more with their desktop OS. In Android’s case, the changes are still rolling out to many, but one of the interesting factors this time was that both releases were plagued with problems. It has meant that take up has not been as fast or as successful as in previous releases, reducing peoples excitement somewhat.

Increased Fragmentation

Just as we all thought we were getting on top of the fragmentation problem prevalent in (some) mobile devices, 2014 was the year that it came back to haunt us. Not only did Apple release a new wave of device sizes to supplement Androids current section, but the range of devices we could develop for also increased. This gives us all far more opportunities, but many more factors to consider as we are increasingly aware that just rolling out our apps with the interface scaled up or down doesn’t always cut it. In recognition of this extra work, the latest iterations of developer tools for most major mobile platforms now offer more assistance and APIs to help create apps that can function in different contexts.

Security and Privacy

I think this will feature on a lot of tech-writers’ lists. There were high profile breaches such as eBay, Target, JP Morgan, Sony, Snap Chat and many smaller cases. Some were due to internal issues and inadequacies, others due to software and others just a concerted effort from attackers. Continuing from 2013’s Snowden revelations, this is compounded with an increasing amount of people questioning just what it is that governments and corporations do with all that data they’re recording on us. I feel that 2014 was a year when these issues began to be understood and appreciated by those who don’t spend a lot of our time worrying about these things, and that is an important watershed. This has led to an increasing amount of interest in apps and services that have privacy and secrecy in mind and this affects us as App developers. We will need to be increasingly conscious regarding information we collect, how it is stored and how we balance that requirement with revenue models, marketing and UX analysis. I think these will be some of the biggest discussions of 2015.

Commercial vs Open Source

Following on from Security, 2014 was not a great year for software exploits. For me Heart bleed and Drupal were the big items. The reason I include this is due to the questions that arose regarding the sustainability of open source projects. It’s not a new question, but again one that was placed in the minds of the mainstream. Adding to all the other factors we now need to consider is how we sustain our projects, be that financially, structurally, preventing burn out, culture and more. This applies to open source and commercial projects and open source / commercial hybrids. I found this talk from Dries Buytaert a great introduction to some ideas for the future.

All Change at the Top

Two of Technologies oldest and biggest stalwarts proved they had moved beyond their founders’ visions by defining their own, very different approaches. Tim Cook has moved Apple into a (slightly) more open and approachable company. They have been listening more, integrating more and moving a few steps beyond their traditional “we know best” attitude. Microsoft had a similar year, more out of necessity than choice. Under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft have made some bold new approaches in the way they market and sell some of their key products. They have also been far more open and approachable, spending increasing time building applications for other platforms and open sourcing key projects.


Having recently moved back to Europe this year, but listening primarily to US tech news, this ongoing saga has been an interesting one to follow. A lot of the EU government(s) issues with the prominence of US tech companies and the power they wield relates to many of the other points above, especially privacy and security. What has been interesting is listening to the different regional perspectives and arguments as various micro issues emerge. This is still unravelling and I have mixed feelings on the issue, wondering if whilst the motivations are solid, often the reaction is poorly planned. Some of the services the EU takes major issue with are incredibly popular and whilst their practises may be shady I wonder what could viably replace them and how happy will the European population be with they favourite services vanishing or becoming crippled?

The Developing World

The emergence and growth of technology in the developing world is an issue I have been watching, finding it hard to get exact details on what is happening but maintaining extreme interest never the less. Several major players prepared or made their moves in the mobile space this year with Firefox Phone and Android One launching in many countries as ‘affordable’ smart phones. There is tremendous enthusiasm and a lot of people in these countries, so this looks to be even bigger news in 2015 and we should pay extra attention to the development opportunities emerging.

Phew! That’s me done for now, unless think of anything else, which I’ll add into the comments below. This is by no means comprehensive, so please feel free to add your own comments and items to the list. As well as any opinions on what I have said.

Happy Festive Seasons, New Years and here’s to an interesting 2015!

Developer Relations, Technical Writing and Editing, (Board) Game Design, Education, Explanation and always more to come. English/Australian living in Berlin, Herzlich Willkommen!

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